Disaster Readiness for Pets: The Best Tips for National Animal Disaster Preparedness

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As a pet owner, you understand that your furry, feathered, or scaly friends depend entirely on you for their safety and well-being— especially in times of crisis. Whether it's a sudden natural disaster like an earthquake or flood or a human-made emergency, being unprepared can put your pet at serious risk. National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day serves as a reminder for all pet parents to gear up and prepare their pet's "bug-out bag."

From creating a pet-specific emergency kit to understanding evacuation protocols that include your pets, we'll cover the must-know strategies to ensure you and your pets can face any crisis together safely. Let's get started on making sure our faithful friends are never forgotten when preparing for the unexpected.

The 3 Needs: Pet Records, Pet Food, Pet Emergency Kit

1. Pet Records

Having physical copies of your pet's important documents is an easy step to check off the list first. Start by printing out their vaccination records, any medical history, and a list of necessary medications. Place these documents in a waterproof folder or container. This step is particularly important if you need to relocate quickly or if your pet requires medical attention while you're away from home! They should have a collar with tags that include your current contact information and, if possible, a microchip registered with your latest details. These identifiers can be lifesavers in reuniting you with your pet should you get separated.

Many of us manage our lives—and our pets' lives—through apps and online platforms. At Plymouth Veterinary Hospital, we can easily email your records. Send us an email to [email protected] with your pet name, and we can send you the necessary vaccination records, medical records, and a list of your pet's medications.

Taking these simple precautions can make a significant difference in managing your pet's health care during an emergency. Having these records handy helps any attending veterinarians provide the best care possible and speeds up the process, reducing stress for you and your pet.

Bernese Mountain Dog in Red Rain Jacket

2. Pet Food

Veterinarians recommend keeping at least a two-week supply of your pet's regular food in case of emergencies!

For practical storage, choose sealed, waterproof containers to keep dry pet food fresh and prevent spoilage. With its longer shelf life, Canned food is also a good option, but remember to rotate your stock to avoid expiration. If your pet is on a special diet prescribed by a vet, securing an extra supply is increasingly important. Also, don't forget to have a plan for providing your pets with fresh water. Storing bottled water is ideal, as tap water might not always be safe for consumption immediately following a disaster.

While human foods can provide a temporary solution in a pinch, some are toxic to pets. Dogs, for instance, can often tolerate a simple diet of cooked chicken and rice but avoid foods like onions, garlic, chocolate, and grapes, which can be harmful. Always prepare a list of safe human foods in case you run out of pet food. If you have doubts or need guidance on what is safe to feed your pet during an emergency, contact your veterinarian.

3. Emergency Preparedness Kit For My Pet

You’ll first need a simple container, such as a Tupperware or pasta storage container. Get out a pen and piece of paper, and write your contact information on the paper to be attached to the top of the inside of this container.

On top of your name and contact information, consider including the following information on your emergency contact form:

  • Veterinarian’s information
  • Pet’s name
  • Pet’s weight
  • Any pressing medical concerns

Even if you end up with your pet, you might be so frazzled by the situation that you can’t recall this information.

Other items to include in your disaster preparedness kit for pets are:

  • Scissors
  • An eye flush (not medicine, just a saline flush that you can get at any pharmacy) in case the pet scratches at their eyes in a panic
  • K-Y jelly (explanation below)
  • One-inch white tape
  • Non-adhesive gauze for bandaging
  • A vet wrap to keep the gauze in place

Now, on to the explanation for the K-Y jelly...with an open wound on an animal, the clock starts ticking as soon as the wound is opened. Smear the wound with K-Y jelly to keep the bacteria content down, to slow tissue retraction, and to make any gauze you apply easily for the treating veterinarian to remove. This is just a temporary solution that you can use to ultimately aid in treating your pet once they get to a veterinarian.

Bandaging a wound on a pet can be tricky. It’s important to note that if you don’t have a medical background, putting something like this on too tight can do more damage than good and can even cause amputation. We understand that this is intimidating to hear, but bear this in mind so that you’re not wrapping your poor pet in something like duct tape because you’re in a panic. Stretch the gauze to cover the wound, but don’t wrap it tightly.

A towel is another item many veterinarians will often recommend that you keep in your car for everyday emergencies. You never know when your pet or someone else’s pet will be hit by a car. If you’ve ever unfortunately witnessed this and/or tried to help with a pet who has been hit by a car, you know that all bets are off as far as that pet’s typical behavior. This pet might try to flee or even bite you due to their fear and pain. Wrapping them in a towel can prevent this and provide comfort as you drive them to the emergency hospital.

You should NOT put human medicine in your pet's kit. It’s far too easy to think, “Oh, I’ll give my dog a bit of Tylenol for the pain or my cat a bit of Ibuprofen to take the edge off.” People don’t realize that these human medicines can be deadly to their pets, and this can be even more so the case if you’ve already got a failing liver or kidney due to an accident. Avoid the temptation altogether by not including it in your kit.

Cat first aid kit

Know Where To Go

When facing natural disasters, having a specific action plan tailored for each type can significantly increase the safety of your pets. Here’s what you should consider for hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods:


  • Evacuation Plan: Have a clear evacuation plan before the hurricane season starts. Know pet-friendly shelters or hotels along your evacuation route.
  • Secure Shelter Early: As hurricanes can be tracked, secure a spot at a pet-friendly shelter or hotel before the storm is expected to hit.
  • Secure Pets Indoors: As the storm approaches, bring all pets inside and keep them in a secure, comfortable space away from windows.


  • Immediate Shelter: Tornadoes may strike with little warning. Identify a safe room where you and your pets can quickly take cover. Basements or small, windowless interior rooms on the lowest floor are ideal.
  • Emergency Kit Accessible: Keep an emergency kit in your tornado shelter space, complete with your pets’ supplies.
  • Crate Your Pets: If possible, keep pets in crates or carriers in the safe room to prevent them from escaping or getting injured by debris.
  • Stay Informed: Have a battery-powered weather radio to stay updated on tornado warnings in your shelter area.


  • High Ground Plan: Know how to get to higher ground quickly and safely with your pets. Avoid waiting until you see rising water.
  • Waterproof Supplies: Store food, water, and supplies in a waterproof container and have them ready immediately.
  • Evacuate Early: If evacuation is likely, don’t wait for mandatory orders. Leaving early can avoid chaos and increased risk when time is critical.
  • Floatation Devices: Consider having pet floatation devices on hand for areas with high flood risk. Secure Pets: Keep pets on leashes or in carriers during evacuations. They can easily get lost or panicked in flood conditions.


  • Evacuation Plan: Identify where you will take your pets if you need to evacuate. This could be a friend or relative's home, a pet-friendly hotel, or an animal shelter that accepts pets during emergencies.
  • Early Warning: Subscribe to local emergency services notifications and apps that provide wildfire updates. The faster you know, the more time you have to act.
  • Indoor Air Quality: To reduce exposure to smoke, keep pets indoors as much as possible. Consider air purifiers to maintain indoor air quality.
  • Create a Safe Zone: If you cannot evacuate and need to stay, create a safe room to stay with your pets. Seal all windows and use towels or foam to block gaps to minimize smoke inhalation.
  • Secure Outdoor Areas: If your pets are typically outside, ensure an area that is clear of brush and debris where they can stay if evacuation isn’t immediately necessary. This reduces the risk of embers causing burns or fires near them.
  • Maintain Calm: Pets can become anxious and stressed due to the smell of smoke and the chaotic nature of wildfires. Keeping yourself calm and comforting your pets can help manage their anxiety.

Some Final Considerations For Disaster Preparedness For Pets

As you develop your emergency preparedness plans, don't overlook the importance of microchipping your pets! This tool can be used nationwide to reunite lost pets with their families after a disaster, as collars and tags can come off. Ensure your contact information linked to the microchip is current; this simple step can make a huge difference in your reunification with a lost pet.

Being prepared means staying informed and ready, particularly if you reside in an area prone to natural disasters. Remember to update the information in your kit once a year. Set an alarm, particularly if you live in a disaster-prone area. Your contact information, your vet’s information, and your pet’s medical information could be different! You also want to ensure that any food, medication, or other supplies haven’t expired.

If you have questions and want to contact us regarding your pet's medical records or any information needed to update your preparedness kit, you can call us directly at 734-453-0485 or email us at [email protected]

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